• Robert Delford Brown

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    I don’t know exactly what to say about Robert Delford Brown’s work. I do know that it moved me, but in a funny way that had more to do with my respect for personal indomitability than with art appreciation. The show was billed as a retrospective (“survey” would, I think, have been a more accurate tag), and contained drawings, watercolors, photographic documentation of environmental/performance pieces, hand-tinted photographic enlargements, ceramic wall reliefs, and papier-mâché mobiles. All told, twenty years worth of lopsided eccentricity. For what is instantly remarkable about the work is just

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  • Pat Steir

    Max Protech Gallery

    Pat Steir’s flowers, still lifes, and geometric shapes seem to exist in enchanted worlds. In some compositions Steir paints these images, usually floating against the background, within a square, and then paints a wide “frame” around this central form. Within these outer frames, with busy abstract marks and letters, Steir muses on the contours and gestures evident in the central image. The total effect of these paintings-within-paintings is, not surprisingly, harmonious; Steir is primarily an abstract painter, more interested in how one image relates to another than in the cultural significance

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  • “Krasner/Pollock: A Working Relationship”

    Grey Art Gallery

    The notion that esthetic life went into the ark two by two underlies and finally undermines this exhibition. “Krasner/Pollock: A Working Relationship” was organized by East Hampton’s Guild Hall for its 50th-anniversary celebration; Barbara Rose curated it and wrote the catalogue, which acts as prelude to a forthcoming book chronicling the personal and artistic events in the marriage of Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock. Covering the period from the early ’30s to Pollock’s death in 1956, the show provides entry to the New York School’s early history and to a complex, often turbulent, relationship.

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  • Carlo Maria Mariani

    Sperone Westwater

    From a quick glance at Studio per Costellazione del Leone (La scuola di Roma) one might think that Carlo Maria Mariani has a fine sense of humor. Mariani, with meticulous proficiency, paints in the neoclassical style that was popular in Rome in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; in this massive 15-foot-wide painting Mariani stays true to that style, but we immediately recognize that something is curiously amiss. Though all of the details, including postures and dress, are in the style of the period, the faces are distinctively real: they are the faces of Mariani’s colleagues, critics, and

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  • Bruce Robbins

    Blum Helman Gallery

    For some time now abstract art has seemed rather beside the point, a worn-out strain of little contemporary significance. But recently, amidst the sudden plethora of what can be described loosely as figurative work (work that is for the most part too vacuous to be excused even on the grounds of fashion), it has been a pleasure to revisit the careful intelligence of the best nonobjective art. Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt have both taken on new strength, and even Hanne Darboven, with her overblown Christmas carol, looks better than she has for some time. All the more disappointing, then, to come

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  • Don Nice

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    Don Nice’s work is equally insubstantial, but for different reasons. He is not interested in appearing fashionable, but he does want to be taken seriously. In a terribly earnest way he wants to be understood as making a meaningful statement, and he does try—oh, God, how he tries. In fact, that is exactly the problem.

    Nice wants to say something about modern American culture, not in itself such a bad ambition. But unfortunately he goes about his project in the most banal way, reducing his argument to a series of clichéd illustrations which can only reduce his viewers to a state of foggy boredom.

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  • Cindy Sherman

    Metro Pictures

    At a time when would-be expressionists, neo-, naive, and new whatchamacallits of every ilk inhabit the nooks and crannies of the art world, infecting New York with a slightly hysterical, hothouse atmosphere, Cindy Sherman’s work has the welcome bite of cold water in a tropical climate. She explores contemporary passions and the subterfuge of imagery (in both the mass media and painting) in a clear-headed, self-possessed manner that does not in any way lessen their impact.

    Sherman continues to be writer, director, set designer, and actor in her one-woman, one-frame stories. In her recent show of

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  • Giorgio Morandi

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    The Giorgio Morandi retrospective comes billed as a first—as the initial survey in the United States of one who himself never traveled far, leaving his native Italy only once to cross the border into Switzerland. Going to three museums, it was organized with enormous efforts in coordination and financing, including special aid by five Italian banks. But in an era of blockbusters, this is an anomaly—a show of 123 works by a provincial “minor master” residing far outside the mainstream and beyond the movements of vanguard art; by a devotee of boxes, bottles, and beakers painted in the kind of

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  • Jim Dine

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    Jim Dine once admitted to having been the lightweight among Pop artists. By disengaging from them early on, he freed himself to develop his anecdotal, soft-core artfulness into a cozy and productive little industry. Dine’s sensibility, sentimental and fundamentally middlebrow, lends itself well to prosaic imagery or to the offhand elegy, but strains when heavily freighted with emotional intensity.

    The New Yorker recently ran a cartoon of a gallery opening where the artist tells a middle-aged couple, “Frankly, in the beginning I had to struggle against a tendency in my work toward the banal. Then

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  • Charles Gaines

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    Charles Gaines, who has received little critical attention over the last decade, is a loopy, poetically inclined conceptualist whose graphs and grids and “purposeless” mathematics thinly mask a passion for the illogical. As Navajo rugmakers always weave a deliberate imperfection into their geometric patterns (anti-hubris), Gaines includes random elements as part of his process. His systems, as he puts it, “do not show that tie reality of the universe is order, they simply show that the reality of the universe is not the metaphor.”

    Some months ago Gaines asked Trisha Brown to dance for him, which

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  • Kathleen Thomas

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    In her first one-person show, Kathleen Thomas offers a strikingly original and timely vision of small sculpture in the assemblagist tradition. Each work measures less than 10 inches across, and is put together from various surplus industrial materials ranging from electronic components—mostly from aircraft and radios—to rubber gaskets and even deactivated bullets.

    Poised between sculpture and object, the works manage to be precious without falling into the dangerous category of cute. Among the sculptural qualities asserted are contrasts in texture and color and a hard-edged specificity of form.

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  • Thomas Rose

    Rosa Esman Gallery

    Thomas Rose reveals himself as a constructor of provocative psychological spaces in this recent group of six pieces. Installed against the wall, each large relief (the smallest measures 72 1/2 by 47 3/4 by 5 inches) mixes references to various real and ideal realms of architecture, with lively results. The piece titled it was compounded by small movements or adjustments, 1980, is telling of the artist’s approach: bringing to mind a stage set, it is rich in dramatic, intensifying relationships, both formal and emotive, among the parts. There are three main structural divisions: two large,

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  • Joan Brown

    Allan Frumkin Gallery

    What happens when east (India) meets west (San Francisco artist Joan Brown)? In the case of the new paintings and constructions inspired by Brown's recent travels to India, some top-notch contemporary American figurative art. The enamel paintings, executed in large scale, are fresh, bold, original treatments of Indian myths, monuments, and rituals. It might enhance our appreciation of the work to know “who’s who” regarding the half-man-half-animal figures that often turn up in the company of a robe-bedecked, blue-eyed, light-complexioned woman (very American-looking—she’s probably a self-portrait

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